Melanie Bartels 

Melanie Bartels (HAW), 26, has won the 2008 Billabong Girls Pro Rio, defeating fellow finalist Sofia Mulanovich (PER), 25, in rifling four foot (1.5 metre) barrels at Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro today.

Event No. 4 of 8 on the 2008 ASP Women's World Tour, the Billabong Girls Pro Rio survived through a grueling five-day lay period to culminate in excellent conditions today, with the ASP Top 17 putting in some of the best performances in ASP history.

Bartels, who rockets up from 14th to 6th on the 2008 ASP Women's World Tour, collects her second career Dream Tour win (her first as a full-time member) with today's victory at the Billabong Girls Pro Rio.

“It's an amazing feeling and I'm just overwhelmed right now,” Bartels said. “My last win was in 2006 as a wildcard at Sunset so to be able to come out on top today, in these conditions, is really special. The waves started to deteriorate towards the end, but I was able to grab a couple of scores against Sofia (Mulanovich) and I was really just surfing my own heat out there and doing my own thing. I was having fun.”

The Hawaiian, who was unable to make the second event of the season, has rebounded in spectacular form today, defeating the reigning ASP Women's World Champion during the Semifinals in what some are calling the best heat in women's professional surfing history (19.00 def.18.50) before taking down Mulanovich in the Final.

“After that Semifinal with Steph (Gilmore) I was filled with a lot of confidence,” Bartels said. “The waves pumped for that heat and we were trading barrel after barrel. That's the most fun I've had in a heat in a long time. I had a tough start to the year with sponsors and results, but that just made me really hungry and after today, I'm really looking forward to the rest of the year.”

Mulanovich, who solidifies her position at No. 2 on the ASP Women's World Tour ratings with today's runner up finish, continues to collect consistent results in 2008 with her third Finals appearance of the season.

“Another Final is a good result for me,” Mulanovich said. “Of course I would have liked a win, but congratulations to Mel (Bartels), she was on fire. I just couldn't find the scoring waves in the Final so maybe things will be different next time. The next event is in Sydney and after that it is at home in Peru so I am looking forward these next few events.”

Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), 20, reigning ASP Women's World Champion and current No. 1 on the 2008 ASP Women's World Tour, was in sensational form today, netting the event's only perfect 10-point ride and backing it up with an 8.50, but was still unable to overcome Bartels in the Semifinals.

“You can't be too disappointed when you lose a heat like that,” Gilmore said. “Mel (Bartels) surfed amazing and deserved that win. I did everything I could out there and there wasn't much more I could do. Mel got two really good waves and I got one really good one.”

Gilmore also earned the Kustom Best Wave Award for her phenomenal perfect 10-point backdoor barrel, reiterating her dominating form, but the young Australian is more aware than ever of how close the race for the 2008 ASP Women's World Title has become.

“You can't count anyone out of it these days,” Gilmore said. “Mel (Bartels) is one of my favorite surfers and it was only a matter of time before she went off this year. The next stop is in Manly and I have a pretty good track record out there so hopefully I can regroup and put in another result there.”

Layne Beachley (AUS), 36, former seven-time ASP Women's World Champion was another potential champion this morning, dispatching of local favorite Silvana Lima (BRA), 23, in their Quarterfinal bout, but was unable to overcome her Peruvian opponent in the Semifinals.

“I couldn't buy a wave out there,” Beachley said. “I think the Semifinal before us took all the waves then so that was a bit of a disappointment. A 3rd is a good result, but it's two years since I've had a win and I'm certainly ready for one.”

Billabong Girls Pro Rio Final Results:

1 – Melanie Bartels (HAW) 14.34
2 – Sofia Mulanovich (PER) 10.60